ROK Espresso Maker

Over the years, I have tried many different ways to make coffee, from cowboy percolators to French press carafes to Chemex drippers. As I’ve moved through the years, however, the reduced acids of espresso have attracted me, and I happily settled on espresso for my java.

If you have tried conventional espresso machines, you are familiar with the grinding, the hissing, and the pumping that accompanies every cup. With the advent of the ROK espresso maker, all that goes away. With this truly portable device, now that perfect shot of espresso can be had wherever there is hot water — at the office, at your campsite, or just in the peace and quiet of your own kitchen!

Every morning, I use a Porlex hand grinder to reduce my beans of choice to fine fragments while my water comes to a boil. As the cylinder preheats, I am entranced by the curl of steam rising past the connection arms. Slowly raising the arms allows the water to drift past the plunger, and I gently press to heat the portafilter and my cup. Although it wasn’t designed for the task, the bottom of the Porlex works very well to tamp the grounds into the portafilter, and I’m ready for my espresso. Refilling the cylinder and raising the arms once again, I quietly and firmly press a perfect double shot of espresso!

On those days when milk is desired, the ROK comes with a hand-pumped milk frother. Although you can get your beverage hotter by frothing warm milk, you’ll find the foam is denser if you froth cold milk before heating it in the microwave.

Cleaning the ROK takes very little effort. For the most part, a quick rinse is all that’s necessary. Though some users will let it drip-dry, the ROK should be toweled unless you don’t mind water spots.

There are many alternatives on the market, and a devoted aficionado could easily spend $3000 for a high quality machine. Although they will all give you an excellent cup of espresso, they share two shortcomings: They all must be plugged in, and they all make noise.

With the ROK, the whole brewing process, start to finish, takes less than 10 minutes. Ten quiet, meditative minutes before I launch into the day!

Disclosure: I have happily owned and used the Presso, the earlier version of the ROK, for more than a year.

-- Conan Cocallas  

[Here's a 90-second video introduction to the ROK espresso maker. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Manufactured by ROK

“Reverse French” Coffee Making

Many coffee aficionados prefer the French press method of making coffee. It and the Aeropress method are the only two methods that immerse all the ground coffee in hot water, then removes all the ground coffee all at once (the French press pushes the grounds to the bottom of a carafe, while the Aeropress pushes the coffee through a small paper filter into a cup.)

The French press method gives a uniquely syrupy, rich cup which I personally prefer. But the carafe is usually fragile glass. Also, some coffee-gentsia don’t like the idea of the grounds remaining in the bottom of the carafe; they suspect brewing may continue after the plunger has been pressed down. So after breaking my fourth carafe, I decided to try another method. This is what I hit on.

To make a single cup of coffee: Grind coffee beans at a medium grind. Pour into a two-cup measuring cup (because it has a pouring spout. I use a heavy Pyrex model.) Pour hot water, just off boiling, over the coffee and stir. Start a timer running, and after two minutes or whatever you think is appropriate, pour into a cup through a fine tea strainer.

So instead of pressing a filter through the coffee, the coffee flows through a filter. Hence “reverse French.”

For the tea strainer I use something like the model shown here, though all that matters is that the mesh is fine enough to catch the coffee grounds. I use two tablespoons of beans per cup, and the strainer is big enough to catch nearly all of the grounds. Use a bigger strainer if you want to brew more coffee at a time.

The advantages over a French press should be clear. All the parts are durable, cheap, and do not have to be any particular brand or model. Indeed, you can use them for other things than brewing coffee! You do get a bit of silt in the bottom of your cup, just as with French press coffee, but that has a lot to do with your grinder also.

The Aeropress produces a different style of coffee (thinner and to me, not as satisfying) but the reverse French method has the advantage of avoiding contact between plastic and hot water. The Aeropress doesn’t have BPA or phthalates, but if want to be especially careful, the reverse French method might be for you.

-- Karl Chwe  

Stainless Steel Tea Strainer, 2 1/2″ diameter

Available from Amazon